With the exception of pioneering work by Clarence Glacken , Keith Thomas and Alfred Crosby , very little has yet been written about early modern environmental thought . This has been partly determined by questions of definition .
It would seem that this weighty collection is part of an even larger project. Much of the preparatory work was carried out by Peter Kitson and his colleagues in the recent Romanticism and Colonialism.
The first principle of understanding history, I was taught, is to sympathize with the historical actors, to immerse oneself in their context and perspective.(1) Otherwise, history becomes a fabricated reconstruction – more about the writer's ideology than the events of the past.
Confucius once remarked that rulers need three resources: weapons, food and trust. The ruler who cannot have all three should give up weapons first, then food, but should hold on to trust at all costs: 'without trust we cannot stand'.(1) Machiavelli disagreed.
Ernest Gellner, who died on 5 November 1995, was one of the great polymaths of the century. Many of his twenty books were concerned with philosophy, sociology and anthropology. Yet at the core of his work was an historical question.
How should we live? Roman Krznaric, in The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, tackles a question as old as civilization itself from a position more fundamental than philosophy, religion or psychology offer on their own. This position is historical.
David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition is an impressive scholarly accomplishment that matches a dauntingly large subject matter with a vast vault of personal knowledge. At 474 pages and 13 chapters covering more than 3000 years, it is thorough without being exhaustive.
Tamson Pietsch is a lecturer in Imperial and Colonial History at Brunel University, London. Her own academic pathway from Australia to Oxford mirrors that of her predecessors who feature in this study of the ‘Empire of Scholars’. We need to know more, she argues, about who made knowledge in the Empire and the social and intellectual context which informed that knowledge.
The history of emotions, a rocket taking off according to Jan Plamper, seems to be screaming ‘know thyself!’ at psychology in all its various forms, but most specifically at neuroscience. The development of a hard science of emotions has involved, with every step ‘forward’, the forgetting of the previous step.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Dr Jordan Landes talks to Professor Jan Plamper about his new work on the history of emotions, a subject which he has memorably described as a 'rocket taking off'.
Jan Plamper is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London.